Infra challenges keep B’luru on the back foot
Bengaluru is arguably one of India’s well-known cities globally, housing large corporations and getting monikers like ‘technology and start-up capital’, among other attributes that give the city a distinct identity.
To top it up, Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj Bommai also shared his ‘new vision’ for the city. His aim is to double the existing metro lines to over 300kms, interlinking multi-modal transport systems, pursuing large infrastructure projects and other ambitious targets.
However, irrespective of the political party or the man in charge of the state, reality has been very different to the dreams these state leaders have promised to the city’s residents.
Since 2007, the Bengaluru Metro project, currently underway in the city and will continue to be under construction for at least another ten years, has just completed 56kms of operational lines with another 100kms in various stages of construction left. That is an average of just 4kms per year.
“Do not compare Phase-I because the challenges were different. It was a learning process for us. But today, we are not in that situation. Today, we’re in a much better situation in terms of technology, in terms of what problem you faced at that time, and how it has been solved. So, whatever time Phase-I took, you cannot put phase-II in that frame. Phase-II is much faster,” Anjum Parvez, the managing director of Bengaluru Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) said.
According to Parvez, the underground work can on the average move around four meters per day while the overground is almost double that.
Bengaluru is one of the biggest revenue earners for the state and Centre’s coffers with its large Information Technology exports industry but the public infrastructure reality for its over 12 million residents is almost an antithesis, experts said.
The lack of vision in the project is apparent as overhead and underground lines are now being forced into the larger plans in the name of “integration”, the experts added.
Legendary architect Charles Correa in 2011 made no secret of his criticism of the Metro. “Elegantly designed, the entire Metro could have been a hi-tech train, a symbol of Bangalore, it’s IT industry... Many places in the world have used steel for similar trains. But now you are stuck with this, you cannot dismantle it; you cannot get rid of it even if you bomb it. It is vandalism,” he said, the Times of India reported.
Despite the capital and employment generation, the city is better known for its nasty traffic, crater-abundant roads, toxic lakes, rising pollution levels that demonstrate the “shortsightedness” of the city’s administration and planners today, experts said.
“We are a city and country of announcements and not one of delivery. We are weak on delivery, planning (and) overall vision of what it means to live in a city,” V Ravichandar, an urban infrastructure expert, chairman of a consulting firm, Feedback Consulting and a former member of Bangalore Agenda Task Force (BATF).
On Saturday, residents of Anjanapura on Kanakapura Road in the southern part of Bengaluru used Coracles to cross the road and even planted paddy to vent their anger for the poor and water-logged road to protest the administration’s apathy.
“Anywhere you go, it is impossible to drive without potholes. It has become kind of a Mohenjo Daro excavation city, which is perpetually dug up,” Ravichandar added.
Most, if not all, of Bengaluru’s roads, are perpetually dug up in the garb of development, smart city and various other projects that have made it a nightmare for commuters and pedestrians, who do nothing short of risking their lives each time they tread these streets.
Gaurav Gupta, the chief commissioner of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) on Sunday said that the city’s civic body has issued directions to fix these potholes.
“Road infrastructure department has been taking up road development work through arterial and sub arterial roads development, project (central zone) department, under white topping and TenderSure Road projects. Due to a lack of coordination in various departments, fixing the potholes has not been adequate,” Gupta said.
The lack of coordination is largely due to the existence of multiple agencies like Bengaluru Development Authority, BBMP, Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewerage Board and Bangalore Metropolitan Region Development Authority, among others whose area of scope overlaps and adds to the lack of coordination between multiple agencies and their exact purpose.
A crackdown by the Karnataka high court, following the tragic death of a 19-year-old medical student on February 6, and hearings of Public Interest Litigations (PILs) have revealed that there are at least 5,435 potholes, bad roads or bad footpaths in Bengaluru, Hindustan Times reported in March.
The data was revealed in a report submitted by the Karnataka State Legal Services Authority (KSLSA) to the Karnataka high court. However, these 5,435 may well be a sampling. KSLSA arrived at these numbers by conducting a surprise inspection of 25 roads in the city based on information collected from volunteers.
The HC had come down heavily on BBMP’s inaction following the death of a 19-year-old medical student, Tasdeeq Bushra while trying to avoid a pothole and was hit by the truck belonging to BBMP on Lingarajapuram-Hennur main road. “Imagine people dying because of potholes on roads. Imagine the plight of the family,” a division bench of Justice BV Nagarathna and Justice MG Uma said during the hearing of a PIL on February 8, Hindustan Times reported.
According to Knight Frank, a real-estate consulting firm’s Bengaluru Infrastructure Report-2020, the city’s population was projected to rise from 11.69 million in 2011 to 16.48 million in 2021, registering a 40% increase in 10 years as against 29.3% the previous decade.
The vehicular growth has matched the rise in population, 3.79 million in 2010-11 to almost 9.4 million as of May 2020, according to Department of Urban Land Transport and the Knight Frank report.
Bommai has said that he will now supervise all mega projects undertaken in the city and dedicate the first working hour of his day to monitor its progress.
But whether the projects make progress is a question the chief minister has no answer to at the moment.